(Struggling to structure a narrative out of my week
in Maipú, I'll do my best to correct my tendency to
write episodes for unfinished serials...)
My planned three-day visit to Bodega Cecchin stretched
out into a five-night stay, & I confess I wasn’t
looking forward to coming back into town last Thursday.
It merely meant returning to my laptop, which takes me
irregularly, haphazardly online by latching onto stray
(government?) office Wi-Fi network signals in my
sweltering room, & to buzzing mosquitoes that feed on
my insomnia & remind me I carry the dark & bittersweet
Puerto Rico of my soul with me wherever I may go-- as
formative, enduring experience.
The excuse for my delayed return was Oscar Alberto
Cecchin’s fairly insistent recommendation that I meet
Ángel ‘el Petiso’ Mendoza, a supremely knowledgeable
winemaker who, more or less in Alberto’s words,
(my translation) knows,
‘how to make wine, how to manufacture wine &
how to let wine make itself’.
This felt like a setup for a test of my palate in figuring
out how interventionist or not he might be with the
product of his ‘boutique’ winery, ‘Domaine San Diego’:
Señor Mendoza made his name & career working for
historically important producer Peñaflor, which was
bought in 1997-- along with the slightly more upscale,
if still mass-market, Trapiche label-- by
Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette from the 2nd
Italo-Argentino generation of the Pulenta family,
than I’d intended, I set out on foot to cover the six or
so kilometers to Sr. Mendoza’s winery in the
Lunlunta district of Maipú. However, I had another,
adjunct mission—somewhat more complicated but
closer to my grape-geek’s vinous heart…
On one of my online rambles, sometime back home in
bottling of a rare white varietal— the French-sounding
St. Jeannet, which the marketing cheat-sheet I’d come
across identified as having an Italian origin, however—
here’s the (just retrieved) core of what I found:
• 2005 Finca Reposo Old Vine Saint Jeannet
alc./ vol: 13.6%
Total Acid: 4.80 g/l
Res. Sug: 1.18 g/l
Appellation: Estate grown, Cruz de Piedra,
a 90 + year old vineyard in the premium growing
area of Cruz de Piedra,
It contains some of the most interesting Cab/Sauv
in Argentina as well as very rare Saint Jeannet,
an ancient, Italian white variety, long lost
from the world.
The character of the wines are impacted by a
stoney, very poor soil, located just east of
Lujan de Cuyo and at an altitude of
above sea level.
This wine was fermented in stainless steel and
has 100% malolactic fermentation.
Being old-vine, the vineyards yield very little fruit.
This year, tonnage was only 2.7 per acre.
Pedro Rosell & Cristian Allamand.
I had forgotten the ‘El Reposo’ name & except for some
recollection of rehearsing, 'Je suis passionné de cépages
rares!' ('I'm fascinated by rare varietals!) I can't for the
life of me remember how Brigitte Subra, co-owner with
her husband Philippe of 'Carinae, Viñedos y Bodega',
came to make some markings on a photocopied map
indicating the vague whereabouts & phone of a small
winery with the somewhat ominous name of
'Campo Negro' ('Black Field')...
It was located somewhere on a dirt road branching East
off Maza towards Cruz de Piedra, on the way to Lunlunta,
at the level of Amézcuaga-- which led West to Luján de
Cuyo, 5 km away.
Confused? Not half as much as I was...